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By Brad Jones, President and CEO, Retail Management Solutions
I’ve spent the majority of my 57 years in and around independent pharmacy. I feel like there’s always been a very personal flow to a pharmacy/patient interaction. It usually starts with a greeting and exchange of pleasantries, catching up on news, families, and other personal items. We scan prescriptions, OTC (over the counter) products, and other sundries. Then we finalize the transaction by accepting payment and capturing signatures and saying “See ya next time.” It’s personal, not transactional.
Of course, the specifics have changed over time. New regulations add new pieces to the process: additional signatures, ID checks, and behind-the-scenes interfaces requesting approval for things like PSE (pseudoephedrine) products. At its core, though, point-of-sale (POS) interactions with your patients have always been made up of key components, completed in a predictable order.
These beginning, middle, and end stages have been part of a relatively unchanged workflow since the beginning of retail pharmacy. This stability in process doesn’t come from a resistance to change, but because it works well. It allows for a personal connection with each patient while making sure that every transaction adheres to applicable regulations. Today, pharmacies find themselves in an unprecedented situation, where standard practices are being upended. In order to keep patients and staff safe, the transaction workflow must change to accommodate a “social distancing” interaction, supporting less personal models like home delivery, curbside delivery, and drive-thru windows.
Until recently, it’s likely that most customer interactions in your pharmacy were initiated by a customer walking through the door and eventually to the drop-off window or cash register. Today, for safety’s sake, this beginning stage has changed for many of you. The beginning interaction is often over the phone. Greetings and pleasantries seem far less personal but are no less important.
Even in-person transactions are now behind plexiglass, making them feel more distant. Suddenly, our interactions seem more transactional and less personal. We all want to reduce the time of interaction and the chance of infection. A speedy transaction is more appreciated than ever. Your POS system can help with the efficiency. But you’re still the ingredient that makes it personal. Here are some ideas:
Consider storing credit cards using tokenization.
This reduces physical device interactions and the chances of contamination. Tokenization is the industry standard for securely storing credit card information for card-not-present transactions. With tokenization, the patient’s card information is stored in an encrypted fashion at the processor level, and you are provided a token that can be stored with the patient record on the POS and used for future transactions.
Consider preparing orders prior to a customer’s arrival.
It reduces physical interaction time. In the event signatures are not required: This allows you to scan, bag, and charge the patient’s prescriptions before they come inside or call for pickup curbside. It eliminates interaction with physical devices like payment and signature pads, and the resulting chances of contamination. It reduces the interaction time between patients and staff. In the event signatures are required: You can use your POS system’s ability to save and recall transactions to scan and bag the order in advance. When the patient arrives curbside or comes into the pharmacy, you can scan the receipt to recall the transaction, tender to the token (or accounts receivable account), and capture the signature on the signature pad in the store or on a wireless signature device curbside. Once again, you’ve reduced the interaction time.
Consider offering curbside pickup and home delivery.
If you aren’t offering this service, COVID-19 might finally be the catalyst to do so. Today, curbside and home delivery not only offer a safer way to do business, but they are necessary to compete. While these workflows may seem dramatically different from anything we’re used to, they help you achieve the same end goal: being there for your patients; supporting their health and wellness; improving their outcomes; and protecting you, your staff, and your patients without sacrificing service, compliance, or efficiency.